One of the issues facing the battle against disease in South Africa, particularly HIV, is lack of education. There can be quite amusing statistics (which I can’t quite locate at the moment) that may stick in your mind, such as the no.1 reason why condoms fail in the country is that ‘people wear them on their fingers’, but there are also more unexpected problems arising from the tribal culture that remains among the poorer black population of the country.
‘There has been some tension in South Africa between the methods used by different medical practices to treat HIV. Around 80% of people living in African countries consult traditional African healers and use traditional African remedies, even if they use conventional medicines as well, and some of these traditional methods of treatment are potentially harmful to people living with HIV. For instance, some people (such as the Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang) claim that African potato boosts the immune system and thereby helps to fight off AIDS. Yet a recent study shows that people taking ARVs should not eat African potato, because it lowers the level of antiretroviral chemicals in the body and increases the likelihood of HIV developing resistance to the drugs.’
This is just one of the complications that can arise in a culture that relies heavily on tribal healing. This is not to say that the use of healers cannot be beneficial to a person’s health, even if the result is simply a placebo, but the problems with misinformation are only compounded by adding another layer of treatment. Another major issue is the tribal belief that having intercourse with a virgin will cure you of disease (including HIV). Not only does this lead to a large number of rapes every year, it also obviously spreads HIV as well.
As the last few entries show, misinformation is clearly a large problem in South Africa and one of the biggest issues when trying to reach the population as a whole. Next time, I’m shifting the focus slightly to the changing diseases themselves, as I’ve found some interesting material on super-TB (super in a bad way).